Have you ever driven home from somewhere, and realised that you don't remember a single thing about the trip?
Or performed a regular task with so little conscious effort that you are surprised to find it done afterwards?
This is because of a clever trick our brain uses to bypass those time-consuming intentional action processes, and just get the jobs done.
We call it 'habit', and it helps us do stuff. Habits are almost always created unconsciously and carried out automatically. Because we can carry out a habit without having to think about it, it frees up our thought processes to work on other things. Now that's efficient.
The problem comes when we develop habits that, for whatever reason, we don't want any more. It may be that they are associated with unhelpful behaviours (such as opening a bag of chips when you watch television), or it may be that they are no longer relevant, such as work tasks changing due to technological modifications.
It's the latter issue that I've been thinking about, as almost on a daily basis something changes in the world of newspapers. (As in many other industries, I'm sure.)
There's a new work-around for a glitch in the publishing system, or a new method of moving information about. It's just about doing my poor, beleaguered head in.
Constant change means we don't get a chance to develop habits, and this can lead to what I like to call 'fried brain syndrome'.
It's when you get overwhelmed with conscious, intentional, unhabitual type tasks, leaving no room in your head to think about anything else. This leads to people telling me things I immediately forget, or to me dithering about which of the six methods I should be using to do a task that used to happen without a thought. Something will inevitably go wrong, so fair warning: if there are blank spaces in your newspaper, I might be to blame.
Lots of us want to change bad habits. But give a cheer for the helpful habits that make life bearable. Long may they operate automatically.